The Pressbox’s Derby Rankings: Catholic Boy Stays On Top, For Now

(Catholic Boy at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup / Photo Courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup)

It has been a sad week, what with the passing of Mourinho, who sustained an injury during a breeze and had to be euthanized. That is a gut punch that many in the industry never get over. Condolences to all of the connections.

It has been a controversial week, what with the stewards’ decision to intervene in a great race and invoke a penalty both on the horse and rider in the fantastic San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. By doing so, the stewards turned poetry in motion into pure politics. They turned a great race into a stupid debate. They turned great drama into turning one’s stomach.

(Editor’s note: For the record, I bet on Bolt d’Oro, and benefited from the change to move him up over the gutty McKinzie. But I still do NOT think it was the correct decision.)

To disqualify the horse is one thing, and I suppose an argument could have been made to penalize either one, depending on the victor. But to give Mike Smith days? Are you kidding me? Ridiculous. One of the reasons that people really do have a hard time justifying on sending their horses to the West Coast. Would love to see trainer Bob Baffert back up his words and send McKinzie East for his next and final prep for the Kentucky Derby. But, to be honest, I would love to see a Bolt-McKinzie rematch even more.

And, it has been a challenging week. While we are writing about “justifying,” what about that darn Justify? Good gosh. That sucker can run; can turn heads; can make believers. So much so that people are voting with their cash, as the bettors have suddenly made him the second choice in the latest “Futures Wagers” pool conducted by Churchill Downs this past weekend. The question remains now, can him break the spell of Apollo?

(Editor’s note II: I respect those that don’t think he can, and all the statistical data and arguments that support their position. I am a firm believer in history, too, and there has to be a reason why no horse has won the Kentucky Derby without having started at least one race as a 2-year-old for over 130 years. But I am realistic enough to know that while it may be improbable statistically, I am not naive enough to think that it be impossible.)

So, what’s up. It has been a typical week on the tough, hard, rocky “Road to the Kentucky Derby.” Below, you will see my current rankings. As you will see, I may be the only scribe in the universe that would have Catholic Boy on top. But I am sticking to the original opinion, until I see one more race — the Florida Derby.

From the moment I first saw this son of More Than Ready, which was on the track at Del Mar leading up to the 2017 Breeders’ Cup, I have been a huge fan. He is a man-child with a stroke as smooth as Tiger Woods’ back in the day (and maybe in the near future?). His win in the Remsen Stakes at the end of the 2017 season was his first try over dirt, and he was spectacular. And, his run in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay to begin the 2018 season was pretty darn good — especially considering he had only 4 works leading up to that event.

So, we are sticking…despite all the flare going on over at the West Coast. But we truly understand that Catholic Boy had better up his game — and we mean real soon — to hang with those characters.

RankHorseSireTrainerJockeyLast StartNext StartComment
1Catholic BoyMore Than ReadyJonathan ThomasManny Franco2nd in Sam F. Davis / TAMMarch 31 — Florida Derby / GPNice Work on Saturday at Bridlewood Farm / Will Have to Show More in Florida Derby
2Bolt d’OroMedaglia d’OroMick RuisJavier Castellano1st by DQ San Felipe / SAApril 7 — Santa Anita Derby / SATook His “A” Game from Practice to Playing / Can He Step Forward in SA Derby?
3McKenzieStreet SenseBob BaffertMike SmithDQ’d in San Felipe / SAApril 7 — Santa Anita Derby / SAWon the San Felipe Fair & Square; Man to Man/Stewards Took That Away, but He Improved
4Good MagicCurlinChad BrownJunior Ortiz3rd in Fountain of Youth / GPMarch 31 — Florida Derby / GPWasn’t Keyed All The Way Up for FOY/Time to Crank the Engine for FLA Derby
5SolominiCurlinBob BaffertFlavien Prat3rd Los Alamitos Futurity / LAMarch 17 — Rebel Stakes / OP2018 Debut Comes Saturday at Oaklawn Park in Rebel Stake/Time to Take Note
6JustifyScat DaddyBob BaffertDrayden Van Dyke1st in ALW / SAUndecidedOverwhelming Winner in Allowance at SA on Sunday / The “Hot Horse”
7FlameawayScat DaddyMark CasseJose Lezcano2nd in Tampa Bay DerbyApril 7 — Blue Grass Stakes / KEEDidn’t Have “The Trip” in Tampa Bay Derby/But Gutty to Run Stalking-Closing Second to Speed
8EnticedMedaglia d’OroKiaran McLaughlinJunior Alvarado1st in Gotham Stakes / AQUApril 7 — Wood Memorial / AQUImpressive Rally to Win Gotham/Shut Down Before the Wire/
9Sporting ChanceTiznowD. Wayne LukasLuis Saez3rd Southwest Stakes / OPApril 14 — Arkansas Derby / OPMost Impressive Runner in Southwest / Coming Off 51/2-Month Layoff/Very Nice
10Free Drop BillyUnion RagsDale RomansRobby Albarado3rd in the Gotham Stakes / AQUApril 7 — Blue Grass Stakes / KEEGotham Stakes Run was “Ho Hum”/Starting to Worry If He Can Duplicate Breeders’ Futurity
11BravazoAwesome AgainD. Wayne LukasMiguel Mena1st in G2 Risen Star / FGMarch 24 — Louisiana Derby / FGGutty performance in Risen Star / Can He Go the Distance?/
12Snapper SinclairCity ZipSteve AsmussenAdam Beschizza2nd in G2 Risen Star / FGMarch 24 — Louisiana Derby / FGNearly Won at Long Odds in 2nd Try on Dirt/Getting Better Quickly
AERerideCandy RideSteve AsmussenRicardo Santana1st in the Mine That Bird / SUNMarch 31 — Dubai Derby / UAEHeaded to Dubai / Can He Make Both Trips? / “Under the Radar” Type Has 4 Wins in 5 Starts
AEMy Boy JackCreative CauseJ. Keith DesormeauxKent Desormeaux1st in G3 Southwest Stakes / OPMarch 24 — Louisiana Derby / FGWord Has It That He Will Now Try LA DERBY Next/Will Have to Improve to Contend
AEPromises FulfilledShacklefordDale RomansIrad Ortiz, Jr1st in Fountain of YouthMarch 31 — Florida Derby / GPWire to Wire Winner of FOY/Speed Bias Had to Help, Right?/We Will See When Tested
AEQuipDistorted HumorRodolphe BrissetFlorent Geroux1st in Tampa Bay DerbyApril 7 — Blue Grass Stakes / KEEImpressive Winner of Tampa Bay Derby/3 Wins in 4 Career Starts/Credentials
AEAudibleInto MischiefTodd PletcherJavier Castellano1st in the Holy Bull Stakes/GPMarch 31 — Florida Derby / GPImpressive In Holy Bull/Put Away All/Will He Extend Out If Pressed
AEInstilled RegardArchJerry HollendorferJavier Castellano1st LeComte Stakes / FGMarch 24 — Louisiana Derby / FG4th in the G2 Risen Star, Yet Dull Throughout/ Throw Out Race?/ More like “Throw in Towel”
AEStrike PowerSpeightstownMark HennigLuis Saez1st in Swale Stakes /GPMarch 31 — Florida Derby / GPGutty Performance in FOY/Never Getting to Winner, But 1st Time Stretching Out/Next?
AERestoring HopeGiant’s CausewayBob BaffertFlavien Prat1st in MSW Event / SAMarch 25 — Sunland Derby / SUNHas Had 4 Published Works Since MSW Win on 2/2; Last 1 on 3/4 going 6F in 1:11.60/Race?
AEOnce On WhiskeyBodemeisterBob BaffertDrayden Van Dyke2nd in MSW Event / SAUndecided4 Published Works Since Race on 2/3; Bullet 1/2-mile on Saturday in :48 flat/Race?

Obviously we weren’t expecting that. We were very happy with him after his win at Dundalk, we knew there was a lot of dirt in his pedigree and that he had a lot of speed but we weren’t sure how far his speed would carry him. We’re over the moon. The lads paid a lot of money for him.”

(O’Brien is 0-for-5 at the Kentucky Derby, but…)

“The ones we went with before (to Kentucky) had no run or a soft run before.”

Aidan O'Brien, Trainer of the impressive winner Mendelssohn in UAE Derby. Quoted by Marcus Armytage, Racing Correspondent for “The Telegraph”.
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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